SCIENCE TRIBUNE Thursday, May 30, 2002, Chandigarh, India

35 years of calculators
G.V. Joshi
HE year 2002 is the 35th anniversary of the first hand-held or pocket electronic calculator. If was created in 1967 by Dr Jack Kilby, an electronic wizard working at the internationally well known company Texas Instruments based at Dallast in Texas, USA.

Auto disable syringe
INDUSTAN Syringes & Medical Devices Ltd (HMD), one of the leading manufacturer of disposable syringes in the country, has introduced India’s first Auto-disable (AD) Syringe — Kojak Selinge in technological collaboration with Star Syringe, UK.





35 years of calculators
G.V. Joshi

THE year 2002 is the 35th anniversary of the first hand-held or pocket electronic calculator. If was created in 1967 by Dr Jack Kilby, an electronic wizard working at the internationally well known company Texas Instruments based at Dallast in Texas, USA.

It was a simple machine that could add, subtract, multiply and divide, just like more sophisticated mechanical calculators made by Burroughs and Facit, available then, but much faster and without cranking a handle.

The calculators were also called as adding machines earlier. The hand-held electronic calculator threw out the abacus used by small businessmen in China and Japan and the slide-rule used by scientist and engineers.

The abacus may be called the first hand-held calculator. It was invented between 500 BC and 2300 BC. The origin is uncertain. The Chinese call it Suanpan. They were used in China, Japan and Russia well up to the middle of this century.

It is said that the Russians used an abacus to perform some of the intricate calculations for the launch of Sputnik I, the first satellite, launched into space to orbit around Earth on October 4, 1957.

Shortly after the invention of logarithms by Napier in 1614, Edmund Gunther plotted them on a 60-cm long wooden strips. In 1622, William Oughtred joined them together to create the first slide-rule.

A slide-rule is a computer that imitates a calculation by representing number with lengths. It is possible to multiply, divide, and even perform more complex calculations with a slide-rule.

However, it could not compete with an electronic calculator in speed of handling as well as the accuracy of results. They fell out of use after the introduction of electronic calculators.

Most of the engineers and scientists, who graduated in the 1960s and earlier, had a slide-rule, and the best model coveted by all was Aristo Studio. Many of them are preserving them as mementos.

The first mechanical calculator was made by the mathematician Blaise Pascal. It used gears to add a column of up to eight figures. It was expensive to built and maintain and none were ever sold.

The difference Engine conceived by Charles Babbage was not built in full. But it showed how calculations more complex than simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division could be handled mechanically.

Using the principles of Babble’s difference Engine, scientists at International Business Machines (IBM) created the first electromechanical computer, the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator in 1944. But it occupied a whole room.

In 1946, the first computer, the Electronic Numerical, Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was ready. But it used thousands of electronic valves, resistors, condensers and switches. It was housed in a 10m x 15m room and weighed several tonnes. Transistors invented in 1947, brought down the size of computers but a pocket electronic calculator was still far away.

The idea of a hand-held calculator followed the invention of an integrated circuit (IC), the chip in electronic jargon. It was conceived by electronic wizards like Geoffrey Dummer, a British computer engineer, Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce of Intel who also invented the process of making an IC. Integrated circuits were followed by a microprocessor — computer on a chip.

In 1967, Texas Instruments came out with their first hand-held calculator. The machine was only a little more powerful than its mechanical forefathers were. Since then many other companies have entered the field, manufacturing better and better hand-held calculators, which can carry out all scientific and mathematical computations.

Hewelett Packard (HP) introduced the first hand-held calculator in 1972. Japanese were not far behind. Casio is well-known name in the field of pocket calculators.

Most hand-held calculators have a display of both the entries as well as results. Earlier there were red or green displays, but today black display has taken over. Black displays (liquid crystal display) consume very little electricity and the batteries, therefore, last much longer.

One type of electronic calculator can handle complicated tasks similar to those done by personal computers. Such a calculator is called a programmable calculator. HP introduced their programmable hand-held calculator in 1974. Casio also makes programmable calculators and pocketbook size personal computers with about 10 kilobytes memory.

Today’s hand held-electronic scientific calculators can perform a wide range of complex scientific and mathematical computations. They can also draw graphs. Thousands of students studying mathematics at high school stage and above use them in schools and colleges. The hand held calculators were followed by desk calculators who could also print out the entries and the results.

The worldwide sale of hand-held and desk calculators was highest in 1989 at 62 million units. The sales have gone down slightly now due to introduction of personal, laptop and palmtop computer, which also carry programmes for scientific and engineering calculations.

Pocket calculators are not made in India by a number of electronics industries. Dr Kilby, who has about 60 patents to his name, was awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics for the year 2000. He was cited for work that paved the way for computers.

Kilby showed how it was possible to combine large numbers of electronic components on to a single slice of silicon. This was the first integrated circuit, the precursor of devices like the Pentium chip in today’s computers.

Dr Kilby conceived and built the first electronic circuit in which all of the components, both active and passive, were fabricated in a single piece of semiconductor material half the size of a paper clip. the successful laboratory demonstration of his first simple microchip on September 12, 1958, made history.



Auto disable syringe

HINDUSTAN Syringes & Medical Devices Ltd (HMD), one of the leading manufacturer of disposable syringes in the country, has introduced India’s first Auto-disable (AD) Syringe — Kojak Selinge in technological collaboration with Star Syringe, UK.

Developed as the perfect prescription to the problem of injection related infections like HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, Kojak Selinge is a major technological breakthrough in the history of medical devices as AD syringe cannot be reused after the first use and any attempt to reuse the syringe leads to the breaking of the plunger. The auto-disable mechanism in the AD syringe works by locking the plunger of the syringe after a dosage has been given and automatically makes it impossible to reuse the syringe.

According to Mr Rajiv Nath, Jt Managing Director, HMD, "Re-using of injections is a major problem worldwide. As per the data available in India alone, more than 7.8 million people suffer (6.26 million from Hepatitis B, 0.8 million from Hepatitis C and 8,600 from HIV) from infections caused due to the unsafe injection practices like reusing of injections. Out of this 4.75 lakh people die annually as a result of the infections and diseases caused by the unsafe injections".

Gene that caused bubonic plague

It was the modification of a single gene that transformed a minor stomach irritant into the bubonic plague, killing a quarter of Europe’s 14th Century population, report AFP.

A Swedish-US team of researchers found that the plague germ differs from other intestinal bacteria by only one gene — the gene that controls person to person transmission of the germ via an insect bite, according to a study published in journal Science.

"The gene allowed the bacteria to be transmitted through the bite of an insect in this case, the flea," said Joseph Hinnebusch, lead author of the study and plague expert in Rocky Mountain Laboratories, a Montana outpost of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

The plague germ, yersinia pestis, then adapted to rely on its new host and to feed off its blood.

That adaptation distinguishes the plague germ from a group of similar, more benign gut bacteria," said Hinnebushch. PTI

Champagne grape with more fizz

Pinot Meunier, a variety of grape used to produce champagne, may see a boost in production through the discovery of a new gene by Australian scientists, reports AFP.

According to a report published in the journal Nature, the scientists, Paul Ross and Mark Thomas of the CSRIO Plant Industry company in Adelaide, reported the discovery of a mutant gene for Pinot Meunier which could make the plant more productive.

They described the discovery as the grapevine equivalent to the "green revolution" mutations of the 1960s which made other food crops easier to grow and more productive.

They found that while most cells in the Pinot Meunier plant are identical to those of its "cousin", Pinot Noir, from which it was developed some 400 years ago, are identical, there was one key difference. PTI




Clues :


1. Machine converting electrical energy to mechanical energy.

5. Amount of a substance that contains as many atoms as are in 0.012 kg of carbon.

8. Measure of the extent to which a substance is opaque.

10. One of the farthest planets of solar system.

11. Used in floors to contain water to seal the air downstream of the disposal pipes.

13. Short for cast iron.

14. Symbol for Nickel.

16. Any substance got by distillation process.

21. Disease of inflammation of iris.

22. A number indicating ratio of speed of an object to that of sound in a medium.

23. India’s premier organisation producing earth moving equipment.

24. Large species of deer.

25. Flat topped raceme with lower flower stalks proportionately higher.


1. Different shades of a single colour.

2. The gap or aperture.

3. A magnetic item on which sound is recorded.

4. An alkane; a colourless liquid.

6. A computer language used for artificial intelligence.

7. These contain a lot of Vitamin A, B and D.

9. Popular short name of a very powerful explosive used in making shells and bombs.

12. Science of human body structure.

15. A South African plant with large showy flowers.

17. ……logy, study of friction, lubricants and lubrication.

18. Copious natural stream of water.

19. A secrecy device developed by Indian defence to promote communication network.(abbr.)

20. Sure strata to lay a structure’s foundation.

Solution to last week’s Crossword: